Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boil, boil, toil, and ....

Hot water. I hope. Kind of looks like a beer still, doesn't it? Well, if it doesn't make hot water, maybe all will not be lost and we can get a nice amber top out of it. This is one of the things that I've been working with the past week. My buddy Roger, of Bob's Sheet Metal, Hancock, Michigan, is my licensed boiler maker. Personally, I think this is genius. Roger does beautiful work. My hesitation is my own lack of experience, but really all of The Secret Cabin systems are new to me. This system works just like one of those outdoor wood stove/boiler systems, only the masonry heaters are more efficient and cleaner burning. So, there is a water jacket in the Garden Level (basement) masonry heater. Firing the masonry heater, heats the water flowing through the water jacket. There's a loop that flows from the boiler, through the water jacket, and back to the boiler. The boiler's first priority is domestic hot water, then the radiant floor heating for the bathroom, then the radiant floor heat for the enclosed front porch, and finally there is an outdoor loop to cool things off if we get the water too hot.  Now, the Garden Level masonry heater has not been fired until recently. With the water jacket in there, the boiler had to be "on line" with the water flowing through the water jacket or the fire would damage the water jacket. The masonry heaters go through curing at the beginning of each season. And that is specifically what I've been doing. Curing the Garden Level masonry heater. We're up to one fire a day with my adding a fifth log to the firebox tonight. I increase the number of logs each burn. During this curing process all the flues stay open. Once cured, I can start closing the flues after the burns and the heater will really start radiating and putting out heat. The picture below shows a close up of the different gauges. 

The red and black "thing" is the pump. It shows the wattage and flow rate. It's a bit unnerving because it's auto adjusting or as The Husband told me, "it learns." Great, and so a computer takes over the world and it all started innocently enough in my basement. So, HAL, the hot water heater, started off using 20 watts of power, now it's using 9 or 10 watts. The flow rate was 4 gallons per minute. It adjusted itself to 2. Good morning, Bheki, this is HAL, would you like a hot shower?
These two gauges are the water temperatures of the water flowing in and out of the boiler. So far, during the curing of the masonry heater, we've hit 100 degrees. Here the gauges are reading in the 70's.
This is the temperature of the water in the tank. Not quite warm enough for a shower yet. The water temperature in the tank started off at 55 degrees.

As a little side note: We've got a lot of glazing (construction industry lingo for windows) on the south side of the cabin and we are getting some passive solar heating. I noticed the sun coming through the sliding glass door, shining on the water jacket, and the temperature in the boiler went up a degree.

Another little side note: Everything is on line which means we're pulling more juice from the P3 (Personal Power Plant). As a relatively inexperienced, off-grid home dweller, I do feel hesitant to run around the cabin and turn everything on, run the vacuum cleaner, stand there with the refrigerator door open all day, etc. That said, it is absolutely stunningly beautiful outside right now. Sunny, clear blue skies behind a colorful backdrop of  trees dressed in their Autumn finery. Time to do a load of laundry.

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